SUN, 07 JAN 2001 18:31:11 GMT
The latest Macedonian proposal concerning the application of a new formula in the partition of assets of the former SFRY has turned the customary notion of who "the bad and the good guys" are upside down in Slovenia. An avalanche of criticism on account of the so-called "undeveloped" countries followed instantly
AIM Ljubljana, December 23, 2000
"... That is why no one is able to offer even a rough estimate as to when the dispute over succession will move from the standstill it is at"... The conclusion of the journalist reporting on the sudden turn of events in the (seemingly) terminated saga about the division of assets and debts of the former SFR Yugoslavia for the Slovene TV net last week had a somber ring to it. No wonder. In but seven days, several unexpected crisis sprang up. To begin with, the Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic arrived in Ljubljanja on December 9, thus commencing the first formal visit of a high Yugoslav official to Slovenia. On the occasion, Svilanovic once again officially confirmed what the Yugoslav government had announced several times before: that FR Yugoslavia abstains from the thesis of being the sole successor to the former SFRY, asserting at the same time that Yugoslavia is willing to a partition of property according to the formula of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In agreement with the mentioned IMF pattern, the successor countries of former SFRY are to divide the 46 tons of gold stored in the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements (BSI) so that FRY gets 36,52 percent of the said gold reserves, Croatia 28,49 percent, Slovenia 16,39 percent, B&H 13,2 percent and Macedonia 4,4 percent.
When everything seemed to be settled once and for all, there came a shocking information from Skopje: the office of the Macedonian Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski informed the governments of successor nations of an entirely new settlement proposal. To put it short, Macedonia now maintains that the set criteria discriminate in favor of Slovenia and Croatia and the Governor of the National Bank Trpevski now insists that the allotment of Macedonia has to be raised to eight percent of the 46 tons of gold. Skopje corroborated its initiative by claiming that it corresponds to the model used by individual countries joining the EU Central Bank. The model in question takes into consideration both the gross national product of a country and the size of its population. If the new formula is adopted, Macedonia's share would grow considerably - from 21,6 to nearly US $ 32 million.
The latest turn of the plot is not, in fact, such a big surprise. Up to now, the four republics - Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina - shared a more or less similar stance in relation to the Yugoslav standpoint. The similitude implied some variations on the "theme"; thus, the Slovene delegation, for instance, favored the criterion of the contribution to the federal budget of the former country which would automatically enable Ljubljana to lay its hands on 20 percent more of the ex-Yugoslav property. But, the proposed model was soon rejected, among other things because it was criticized by European experts. Then came the mentioned IMF formula, established according to the indebtedness to the International Monetary Fund. It allotted Slovenia 16,39 percent, FRY 36,52 percent, Croatia 28,49 percent, B&H 13,20 percent and Macedonia 5,4 percent of all the assets of former Yugoslavia. After the objections raised by the Macedonian negotiators who claimed that the said criterion thwarted the economy, the remaining four delegations conditionally agreed to a modified pattern of partition according to which Slovenia was to get 16 percent, FRY 35,3 percent, Croatia 27,2 percent, B&H 13 percent and Macedonia 8,5 percent of the SFRY property. This arrangement fell through too since, as the Slovene negotiators explained, the Macedonians took it for some sort of charity, thereafter insisting ever more ardently on the population criterion - in turn rejected by Slovenia.
The re-activating of the "size of population" criterion caused quite a shock in Slovenia (more so, since, for a while, it seemed that the chief obstacle to the closing of the deal - official Belgrade - had been pacified at last). For the first time in ten years of independence, the prevailing tone of newspaper columns dealing with succession and their customary notion of the "good and the bad guys", had to be abruptly altered. After the changes in Belgrade and Skopje, the established perspective shifted altogether. In the past years, the Slovene public had been lulled by claims that official Belgrade is the sole culprit for the undermining of the succession negotiations, while Slovenia boldly took on itself the role of the forerunner of the remaining four republics, unanimously united behind a common cause. Overnight, the bad guys found themselves in the role of yesterday's allies, while the former good guys suddenly turned into "rascals amongst our ranks". To make things even worse for Ljubljana and its negotiators, the heretic notes did not originate from Skopje solely, but were met with understanding in Sarajevo and even Montenegro... All of a sudden, even Montenegro (the independence of which, by the way, Slovenia strongly supports) presents a problem since it now blocks and complicates succession negotiations.
For a portion of the established columnists, the sudden change of the political milieu hardly presented a problem at all. Instead of the customary analyses of the interests of individual republics, the media were cleared of the notion of the revolting "autocrats from Belgrade" , while the once popular thesis about the "underdeveloped" who forever stall the needed changes and - in this case, successful wrap up of succession negotiations - was launched once again. Out of the blue, the argument of funds reserved for undeveloped regions uneconomically spent on comforts reserved for the ruling oligarchies and doomed industrial giants in the former SFRY were brought up again. The said discourse is in effect at present.
"What Macedonia is proposing is that we divide the debts of former SFRY according to one formula, and the Basel gold (i.e, the minimum of gold reserves within reach) - according to another! In other words, they would like to pay off as little as possible of the debts and get as much as possible of the reserves. The negotiating position of each country is its own affair, but what is now being done by Skopje and Sarajevo can be regarded as nothing else but ‘balkanization’, a retrograde political process of regressing to the ‘yugo-mentality of solidarity’. It is a reflex of countries incapable of making it on their own, who wouldn't mind being ‘towed’ a bit longer. Curiously enough, Belgrade is now the one bearing itself with a greater degree of statesmanship and constructiveness. Which is understandable since it is in a hurry, seeing that it is penniless. It's obvious that because of the latest Belgrade-Ljubljana-Zagreb yoke, the former ‘less developed’ haven't got a chance in the world; their negotiating arguments are too feeble..." the leading columnist of Slovene Delo, Boris Jez, persuades his readers.
A lot could be said about the cited point of view: starting with the fact that the funds for the undeveloped were in fact a compensation for their inferior status on the once common market (the EU has similar mechanisms and, being comparatively "undeveloped" Slovenia itself will soon be in the position to make use of similar "structural" funds), to the fact that the negotiations will get out of the deadlock only when a consensus is reached. The Brussels continuation of the negotiations of the successor countries of SFRY on December 18 and 19, serves as an excellent illustration to the fact. The Slovene media scantily reported that "fundamental issues" had not been discussed (?) in Brussels and that the whole meeting had the character of a "presentation of standpoints". The anticipated swift accord predicted after the changes in Belgrade obviously won't be reached swiftly at all.
As for the apportionment criterion itself, the tale is not that simple in the case of Slovenia either. It agreed to the obligatory formula for partition by passing an additional law, as well through an agreement with the Basel-based BIS. In line with this agreement, Slovenia counts on 1310 of the total 8000 shares of former SFRY and, starting with last year, it also has an open credit-line to the sum of US $ 50 million in the said bank. Perhaps the demands of Macedonia and other successor countries of former Yugoslavia are not altogether unreasonable, but one thing is certain: the application of the "Macedonian" formula would lower the Slovene 16,39 percent to 12,62 percent of the available gold. Thus, the latest squabbles over a couple of millions of dollars may well seem both pitiful and unnecessary. A swift apportionment of the former state's assets and mutual cooperation of all countries originating from former Yugoslavia would bring in not tenths, but hundreds of millions of dollars. The absurdity of the latest disagreement becomes even more evident in the light of the current trends on the international gold market. Had the successor nations reached an agreement in 1992. when the price of gold was high, they could have divided and put to use 600 million US dollars. Because of the decline in prices, the gold of ex-Yugoslavia is now worth a mere 400 million US dollars.